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The opposite has happened to Pradera that happens so many times to influential characters: their prominence was supported by a succession of concentric circles from smallest to largest that were something like their human habitat and traveled between circles and friends, newer or more veteran. But stardom was never his world, or it was only among the well-informed, knowledgeable and members of the circuits of power, in a strong and soft sense. Out of those few hundred characters who knew of its subterranean and unassuming relevance, the general population, including the educated, had a rather nebulous idea of ​​Pradera as name-icon, name-fetish, name-name without any of its public work, or hardly anything, would allow projecting on him the dazzling watts that did fall on many of his closest friends, and some also relatives: all Christ knew who his brother-in-law Rafael Sánchez Ferlosio was and who Carmen Martín Gaite was, as in the In the sixties and seventies, many knew who Chicho Sánchez Ferlosio was, while they hummed Black rooster, red rooster, As a good part of the bookstore reader was aware of the existence of a literary megastar without readers, Juan Benet, and there was no agitated, subversive or merely restless young man who did not react in one way or another to the name of Federico Sánchez, although almost Nobody knew (but Pradera did, and since 1955) that this ghost of communist subversion was actually called Jorge Semprún, another full-blown star, especially when he turned towards the world of cinema at the hands of Yves Montand, Simone Signoret or Costa-Gavras. Who no one had a clue of was the lanky skinny man who was in the hearts of all of them and some more, Javier Pradera. He was born with stardom embedded in his surname and in the street map of Madrid (by his grandfather the reactionary traditionalist Víctor Pradera) and after becoming a communist in Franco’s underground in the fifties he married the daughter of another star of fascism full of culture and delirium, Rafael Sánchez Mazas.

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He had always done the same, since he was a teenager, and that explains part of the exceptional nature of his career in contemporary Spain: he was a nomad of thought and analysis, driven not by one trade or another, but by the greed to know and understand , of catching things in their most secret aspects, even if they were implausible, and without fear of breaking the script, or undoing the illusory script of one and the other (especially because he himself had been and would continue to be a phenomenal delusional in so many things) . That itinerant nomadism of the same mental structure emerges in an almost bloody way in the way in which he conceives writing when writing is only a practical instrument: when he writes meticulous letters to discuss with Jorge Semprún (rather, Federico Sánchez and Jorge Semprún at the same time) as a young militant with critical distance and independence of criteria, but also when he argues with the master and lord of the publishing house that has employed him in 1962, Fondo de Cultura Económica, to explain the editorial plans that he suspects, without In the end nothing comes out, or almost nothing of what you imagine. But it does not matter: the pleasure of thinking and projecting flows from each paragraph – some of these letters are in a Pradera book that collects a few, Itinerary of an editor, en Trama— because today we can enjoy an intelligence that is running and without an operational purpose. We read it no longer with the expectation of those who do their work well, but of those who leave a trace of them in their work, and that happens in those letters but it also happens in the infinite back covers that they came to write for the Alianza publishing house since the late 1990s. Sixties, on the run, almost without breathing and without ceasing to nail the meaning of the book, whether in The Pocket Book, or in the collection that was invented in 1970, Alianza Universidad, and mother ship of half of the university students of the next two decades.

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Javier Pradera, then head of the Opinion section of EL PAÍS, in a debate in the newsroom on the occasion of the first democratic elections in Spain, in June 1977.
Javier Pradera, then head of the Opinion section of EL PAÍS, in a debate in the newsroom on the occasion of the first democratic elections in Spain, in June 1977.EL PAÍS Archive

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The authority of a classic

The 10 years since his death in November 2011 have brought another character out of the same old Prairie. He was already there, but we didn’t know it, nor had Pradera done anything to make us know it: the writer, the essayist, the author of books that are indispensable today for the educated reader of the present (and of the future). Pradera is today part of the affective and intellectual memory of several generations of Spaniards, but it has begun to be something new through several books that lived with him throughout his very long maturity and he never authorized, or resisted giving them the nothing stands in the way, as a demanding editor of others and, even more so, of himself.

But he was wrong from medium to medium by leaving them unpublished, or the reasons he had seem superfluous or minor. Today in the most reliable bibliographies on the pathologies of Spanish democracy it appears preferentially Corruption and politics. The costs of democracy (Galaxia Gutenberg, 2014) because no other essay on that scourge was able to count, with the double instrument of intimate experience in a newspaper and the solvency of a humanistic editor, the causes of an invisible devastation, the stubborn and tenacious functioning of corruption that affected almost all political parties.

What Pradera put in an additional way in that book was an unadulterated democratic sensibility through the use or contact with power and its natural propensity for sympathetic permissiveness and sometimes complacent with maneuvers whose most serious deterioration is slow and invisible: democracies become they discredit them as political systems, normalizing corruption as a necessary evil when in reality it is among the root causes of the erosion of the population’s trust. From tolerated corruption to all are equal goes a step that only voxean the extreme right, but many more feel credible.

Of that, of the extreme right, Pradera also knew a lot because he had lived in the sociological, family and ideological heart from which his Francoist institutionalization was born. From that thick and stale pottage he escaped, but he did so as always, with an effort of rationalization capable of explaining the essential ingredients — imaginative, verbal, political — that explain the appeal that Falangist mythology (which was the title of the posthumous book, edited by CEPC) had for many young people, including himself.

It was until he decided to undergo open-heart surgery and understand that the emotions that Phalangism mobilized reduced his addicts (like him) to throbbing viscera and he discovered another reverse drug that truly deserved the delivery of life, not verbose and spurious and false. , but true, selfless and noble: the cause of the redemption of the working masses, the communist cause of a world ordered for the good from the scientific law and the state order. That was to be his moral placenta for 15 years, until the end of the sixties: he became a communist out of brotherhood and theoretical conviction, and only with experience and the lessons of maturity did he begin to disbelieve to look out into the temperate waters of the social democracy.

Until the end in EL PAÍS

In this newspaper he wrote editorials for 10 years, at the approximate rate of one a week, almost always on national politics, with excursions to other subjects of his own for cultural and also sentimental reasons: the memory of Cuba, the memory of the Soviet Union, the memory of exile, the hazards of the book culture and some very personal demands that ended up being collective, or that aspired to encrypt the adventure of liberal and democratic re-education in a proper name. Up to five editorials came to dedicate to Dionisio Ridruejo in the early years of democracy, and not only out of stubborn and posthumous admiration for the character, but also because of what he had as positive exemplary for other coats who had acted very differently during the dictatorship. and in democracy they were still behind Ridruejo in terms of liberal conviction. Manuel Fraga Iribarne would become the paradigm of a politician forced into a democratic practice that lacked the genuine anti-Franco conviction that Ridruejo did exhibit.

Those slow tasks of civil pedagogy and clarification of the trajectories of one and the other were part of the intellectual baggage that he handed over to the readers of this newspaper. It is possible that waves of Democrats were born from his firmness of prose and his judicious equanimity of analysis to learn in the 1970s that democracy is practiced day by day and is not a magic potion or mechanical recipe. Today polarization seems to be the key word for the present, but it has been a key word for too many stages in Spanish political life, and of course, also in the years after Franco’s death.

The analog world must have been truly another because it is not easy to assume the executive speed that drove in the mornings the director of the main essay publisher of the Spain of the Transition (the Transition begins back in 1965), Alianza Editorial, and the chief of Opinion of the main newspaper of the Spain of democracy in the afternoons since 1976, EL PAÍS: What time did you drink coffee or cut your hair? What time did he hook up with a woman or what time did he slip out? At what time did he fight with his sons Máximo and Alejandro, or at what time did he olympically ignore them, while he was still absorbed in very deep cabal to regenerate democracy (also a pioneer in that)? At what time did you decide to buy a flat, to separate or to remarry? We do know the latter: he decided to remarry between the two boards of directors of January 1989 in Alianza Editorial that were going to decide his end as editor. In the second council he was left without the publishing house that he had created in 1966 with Jaime Salinas, José Ortega Spottorno and the Vergara family because it was sold to another company and he preferred to stay out because it would no longer be his. At that time, Jesús de Polanco invented another place for him to plan for the long term: that friendly hut that was a substitute for the strong edition was Keys to practical reason. But above all, THE COUNTRY remained as its own home, as a symbolic family and political laboratory, and there (that is, here: the same machine to generate pain) continued writing until the very Sunday of the absolute majority of Mariano Rajoy, November 20, 2011, when he died at home, at the home of Natalia Rodríguez-Salmones. Months ago he had fired two close friends from the political and cultural guerrillas: Jorge Semprún and Luis Ángel Rojo. Pradera, just a little later, he left very calm and very well accompanied.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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